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Law and Social Controls

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Law and Social Controls

Published 1949

Uses the story of teens trying to extend the hours of their "Teen Canteen" as a vehicle for explaining customs, moral codes, and laws.

Run time 9:37
Producer Coronet Instructional Films
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W



Ken Smith sez: The gang at the "Teen Canteen" can't decide if they should close their establishment at 10:30 or 11. Adult advisors guide them to the correct decision (10:30). Coronet obviously felt it plausible that resolving an issue such as this would require the efforts of both teens and adults -- though it's doubtful anyone else would. Some narration and crude animation. Whining "Jane" ("Some people may question our behavior!") also appears in Going Steady and A Brighter Day. This one grows on you.
Title Card: "Law and Social Controls"; misc. credits.
Policeman directing traffic (on street corner in small town); signaling automobile to pull over. CU policeman admonishing driver (he has directed to pull over).
Large, columned courthouse; building surrounded by spiked, wrought iron fence.
Illustration: "Social Controls" and drawn figure of striding man, joined in sequence by man tipping top hat labeled "Custom" pointing finger labeled "Moral Code"...policeman with raised hand labeled "Law"
Teenagers sitting at tables in the "Teen Canteen" (soda jerk in BG); teen couple entering and greeting another teen couple sitting at table; young man rising from seat (at table); returning dirty ice cream dishes to soda jerk.
CU clock indicating 10:55.
VS teenagers clearing ice cream dishes from tables in teen social club; several teenagers waving goodbye and leaving teen club; 2 young woman cleaning up teen club and conversing; young woman walking to bulletin board and reading list; young woman talking (standing behind soda bar). CU aggravated young woman.
3 teenagers (1 young woman and 2 young men sitting at table) engaging in serious conversation.
VS man (arms folded), woman and 3 teenagers (sitting at table in "Teen Canteen") having serious discussion. CU sitting woman (wearing hat) speaking to group. CU teens sitting at table (soda fountain in BG). CU young woman whining. CU young man. Man (with hands in pocket for dramatic effect) speaking to teenagers; sitting, he continues speaking to teenagers. CU young man gazing pensively o.s. CU individual group members.
Illustration: "Social Controls" and drawn figure of striding tipping top hat labeled "Custom" pointing finger labeled "Moral Code"...policeman with raised hand labeled "Law"
Teenage couple entering teen social club ("Teen Canteen"); being greeted by sitting couple; waving to others in club and sitting at table (young man pulling chair out for date and removing her coat); waving o.s. Young man, playing ping pong, waving o.s.; continues playing ping pong. VS ping pong game (other teens watching); young man giving ping pong paddles to young women. VS teenagers mingling in social club.
Illustration: "Social Controls" and drawn figure of striding tipping top hat labeled "Custom" pointing finger labeled "Moral Code"...policeman with raised hand labeled "Law"
VS man, woman and 3 teenagers (sitting at table in "Teen Canteen") having serious discussion; earnest young man standing (arms folded) and speaking to group; CU sitting woman (wearing hat); CU smiling young woman. Reaction shots of group; other participants speaking in turn.
U.S. Capital building.
CU policeman blowing whistle and directing traffic; (panning to) traffic signal displaying stop light.
Signs indicating "Stop" and "Unlawful to Pass School Bus Stopped for Children."
Sign indicating "Speed Limit 35 Miles Per Hour"
Newspaper headlines from Chicago Daily Tribune indicating "99 Years for 2 Killers" and "U.S. Court Dooms Traitor."
Sign posted on telephone pole indicating "No Hunting, Police Order."
Traffic light indicating "Stop" and "Go."
Road sign indicating "Walk on Left Side of Pavement."
Newspaper headline indicating "Parolee Jailed Freed on Writ."
Students entering school building.
Illustration: "Social Controls" and drawn figure of striding tipping top hat labeled "Custom" pointing finger labeled "Moral Code"...policeman with raised hand labeled "Law"
Family eating at dining room table.
Teacher talking to class (student writing on blackboard).
Steepled church.
LS small town (sweeping, high shot).
Illustration of man surrounded by dotted lines; lines changing to outline of state; lines changing to outline of United States; lines changing to outline of globe.
Sign indicating "Teen Canteen...New Weeknight Closing Time...10:30"; (panning to) clock on wall indicating 10:30; (panning to) young men and women cleaning up glasses and dishes at "Teen Canteen."


Reviewer: JayKay49 - favoritefavorite - December 11, 2012
Subject: But That;s Not all That Comes out of The Capitol Bldg!
The "Teen Canteen" has other issues. The health department wants everybody behind that counter to wear a hair net (looks gay but so what, that's the law). They also need health cards. The books need to be audited by an outside party and the paperwork kept for 7 yrs per the IRS. They need a permit from the city to use those premises for that use, the air quality has to be checked and the findings documented; is this location and its furnishings wheelchair accessible? And of course the EPA might wanta close em down because...well, just because that's what they like to do.

So the closing time is just one of a multitude of things that these mid 20th century entrepeneurs would have to address if this was 2012.

The good ol days. Boy have things changed.

Dry as a Triscut. Low on campiness
Reviewer: donwert - favoritefavorite - June 13, 2010
Subject: You WILL Conform!
Steve Nordby, below, has nailed it. This film is all about instructing teens to obey laws, moral codes and customs. By using the trivial question of how late the "Teen Canteen" should stay open,
it sidesteps the far more serious question of what to do when the "social controls" are used to an evil end---such as for the oppression of minority groups as was true throughout the South when this film was made. I wonder whether any kids watching this in, say, Montgomery in 1949, thought about that or raised the question in class...I rather doubt it.
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavorite - July 20, 2006
Subject: Too heavy
Somehow I found the scrip pretentious, and the narration overbearing and repetitive at times.
All in all, a mediocre production.
Reviewer: AlexJonesLemming - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 19, 2006
Subject: Moral codes and Janet Jackson
You can't honestly believe Janet Jackson decided all on her own on what clothes to wear and how to choreograph that stunt.

Of course, ALL the media and entertainment corporations involved had to sign off on this, or nearly all. I can imagine the discussions --- either on how this would appear 'hip', OR more likely, on how it would generate controversy, OR even MORE CYNICALLY, on how Jackon's "risque" (to echo a term my mother would use) performance might generate a backlash serving the interests of the Authorities.
Reviewer: Steve Nordby - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 31, 2004
Subject: Law and social guidance
This film is rather accurate from a particular sociological prespective. Social control is about obediance. The adults rationalize conformity as being in the best interest of the teens.

Now, what about social change? Has there ever been a social guidance film on social change? Let me try: "Hey kids, we are part of the community, so if we want to stay open late, it is our *lawful* right. It is a *good* idea to let kids decide for themselves how late they want to stay out so they learn a sense and limits of a 24 hour day, and besides it is *customary* for teens to stay up late!"

Oh but I forgot it's the 1950's, and it was a bad idea to rock the boat. Just ask Rosa Parks. It was lawful, customary, and (in the moral sense of many whites) morally correct for blacks to sit at the back of the bus. So don't cause trouble. Don't try to change. Just obey.
Reviewer: Film Fan - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 31, 2004
Subject: Interdependance
The terminology may change, but the "Social Controls" outlined in this film are still in operation today. The adult advisors guide a group of young leaders to make their own decision about the closing hours of their "Teen Canteen."

An example of 50s oppression? Hardly. "Custom," "Moral Code," and "the Law" were explained to Janet Jackson after her 2004 Superbowl "exposure." The FCC will tell you that if Custom and Moral Code fail, the Law will step in with hefty fines. The guards et al. at Abu Ghraib prison, I'm sure, have a lot to say about offending "Custom" and "Moral Code," not to mention "the Law."

The teens don't want to offend the surrounding businesses so that a curfew law gets passed against their canteen. They decide to be good neighbors and close a half hour earlier.

Wisdom beyond their years...
Reviewer: Marysz - favoritefavoritefavorite - April 26, 2004
Subject: Social Coercion in Small Town America
This 1949 Coronet film shows the onset of the codification of 1950ÃÂs conformity. The clean-up committee of the ÃÂTeen CanteenÃÂ in a small town decides they need to close earlier to get home by 11:00 p.m. Betty, Jean and Jack call in their adult advisors Mrs. Brown and Mr. Parks. ÃÂI have heard people talking about your late hours here,ÃÂ Mr. Brown warns them. The town just might pass a law to get the canteen closed. Staying open so late isnÃÂt ÃÂcustomary in this town.ÃÂ Mr. Brown gives the kids an oppressive lecture about laws and social customs that show how easy it was for America to fall into the red-baiting traps of the upcoming McCarthy era. A ponderous off-screen narrator explains how social control is used to enforce the ÃÂlaws and social contractsÃÂ that we live under. What are laws? ÃÂLaws are what we agree to be right.ÃÂ What happens to someone whose values are different than what the majority of citizens believe to be their ÃÂmoral code?ÃÂ ÃÂHe looses social status,ÃÂ the narrator warns, ÃÂhe no longer belongs, heÃÂs an OUTCAST.ÃÂ We then see montage of newspaper headlines about the consequences of breaking the laws, one of which is ÃÂU.S. Court Dooms Traitor.ÃÂ McCarthyism was just waiting to happen. The members of the Teen Canteen vote to shorten their hours voluntarily before the town comes down on them. They submit to community pressure to do whatÃÂs ÃÂcustomary.ÃÂ ItÃÂs a civics lesson, but a depressing one.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 18, 2003
Subject: When in doubt,, contact big people.
The teens have problems when their canteen is closing at 11, not all the help remain to help clean up! So, with the help of Edward from Dating Do's and Don'ts and another gal whom I'm sure Ive seen in another Coronet film, they get the adults together and discuss what should they do. Somehow this discussion ties into whats right and whats wrong (eg Teens have to do what adults tell them to do) and somehoe they come across the idea to close at 10:30 so that the other person will stay and help clean up. Why not just FIRE the ditcher?
Reviewer: dynayellow - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 9, 2003
Subject: Teen Canteen Uber Alles
A charming little short that describes the different levels of social controls: Custom, Moral Codes, and Law that govern the way we are supposed to act within our community.

Trouble brews in the local Teen Canteen... some of the members are skipping out on cleanup duty. Is the canteen open too late? Should it close sooner? Who should determine this?

Not terribly kitschy... one girl seems FAR too pleased that she's representative of the moral codes.
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